Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Open Letter to Mitt Romney -- This is my Family.

Dear Mitt Romney,

Last night in the debate, when you were asked about assault weapons, AK-47s, you told America that it would be better if children were raised by two parents. 

You started by saying that we needed "to change the culture of violence that we have." You went on to talk briefly about education and then you hit us with this: "But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea."

This was an answer to a question about automatic assault weapons, AK47s, and violence in America.

My father was raised by a single mother.  His father died when he was five years old. He had two sisters. His mother was the sole breadwinner, and times were very lean, but all three children thrived -- non-violently, I should add. In fact, my father is very anti-gun and always has been.

But, also, his mother wasn't completely a single mother. My grandmother's younger sister had never married. She moved into the house to help -- not financially but as another mother in the house.

So, actually, my father -- a smart, kind, wonderful man and great father -- was raised by two women. 

This brings me to your dueling hypocrisy, Mr. Romney -- your desire for people to get married and raise children, and your desire to constrict and limit people's ability to get married -- by forcing your definition of an appropriate marriage (a man and a woman) onto our culture. 

I know that you were at the helm when Massachusetts passed its same-sex marriage law. I've looked it up. You fought it, did what you could to limit the law -- and, in this progressive state, you failed. 

You have become an infamous flipflopper -- you've even flipflopped on your views of automatic assault weapons, in fact. However, you have been steadfast in your stance against same-sex marriage and have vowed to push the Defense of Marriage Act.

Look, in some ways, I'm old fashioned. I got married at 23. My husband and I wanted a big family and now have four kids. I imagine those times on down the line when someone falls for one of our children and gathers the courage to ask our permission to take their hand in marriage.

Not that I really believe that it will be our say, but I love the tradition. (When my father asked my mother's father, my grandfather handed my father a family heirloom -- a German luger. My father dismantled it and hid its parts.)

My husband and I are clear on the kind of person we want our children to marry: someone who loves them, who's kind to them, someone who inspires my child's love in return. We want them both to support each other's hopes and dreams. We want someone with strong content of character.

But I've been having this vision of the moment -- this wonderful young person tells us that they want to spend the rest of their life with our child and build a family together, and at that moment, Mitt Romney, you appear. You want to know genders. You want to match them up according to the foundational ideas of your faith -- just as once upon a time the government wanted to check on engaged couples' races

I see the government telling us who we should welcome into our family and who we shouldn't. (From a party that wants to get rid of Big Government, it sure seems to want to bring its Big Government into our homes.)

The irony is that those faiths that promote big families have more of a chance of having gay children -- sons, in particular. (Maybe you've heard of this, Mr. Romney?) It's not just because they have more children, no. The Older Brother Effect is one of the few scientific understandings of sexual orientation in men. 

From Wikipedia: "The fraternal birth order effect is the strongest known biodemographic predictor of sexual orientation. According to several studies, each older brother increases a man's odds of having a homosexual orientation by 28–48%... The effect has been found even in males not raised with their biological brothers, suggesting an in-utero environmental causation."

We don't know the genders of the people our children will one day bring home to meet us and we don't care. We want our children to find kindred spirits in this world, people who truly love them for who they are.

Raised by two women, my father's older sister became a pioneering journalist and a mother of two. His younger sister got her masters in education, had a strong career, and had three children. My father became an engineer and lawyer, a father of four. 

When people speak about their fathers, the men of my father's generation -- he's in his mid-seventies -- I often can't relate. Rigid in their opinions, unable or unwilling to express emotion, as if emotions are a sign of weakness, hard on themselves and others -- these characteristics don't apply to my father. I've seen my father cry many times. I've seen him dance like Zorba the Greek. I've heard him talk about what's most important in life. He's a man who believes in humanity. 

And, yes, I've wondered if my father is such a good man because he was raised by two women, alongside two sisters... But that's not it.  The main thing is that he was raised with love. That's what it takes to raise a family. 

Now back to the question, which was about assault weapons, AK47s.We do need to change the culture of violence in this country, Mr. Romney -- not by limiting our definitions of family, but by limiting assault weapons.


Julianna Baggott